NEW YORK - The season is down to nine games. Chris Davis has at least one more to play by serving today as the designated hitter.
What happens next is unknown beyond how he’ll sit Sunday against Yankees left-hander J.A. Happ.
Davis’ average has sunk to .170 with a .545 OPS after he went 0-for-4 with a walk and four strikeouts last night. One hit in his last 34 at-bats, with 17 strikeouts, is the latest version of a slump that’s never completely let go of him.
It’s hard to find any sort of separator. To make a distinction beyond the cities.
“They all feel the same,” Davis said this morning while standing at his locker. “Pretty much stink. I’m just honestly trying to get to the finish line right now. I’m not trying to think too much about what’s gone on all year. Just trying to keep my head up and get to the finish line.
“I feel like as long as I’m healthy-ish - this time of year, I think everybody’s got bumps and bruises - but as long as I’m able to go out there and play, that’s the least I can do, so that’s what I’m going to do.”
Davis is the designated hitter for the 12th time this season, with Trey Mancini starting at first base today. It’s a way to pull back a little without leaving the lineup.
“I think honestly the DH for me, it’s always kind of been a day off, just because you’re not out there on defense, standing around, running after balls, holding guys on, but at the same time you still get the at-bats, so your timing doesn’t take a hit, and for me, that’s always been something valuable,” Davis said.
“I felt like in Seattle, Kansas City, there was a five-game, six-game stretch where I was DHing quite a bit, playing first couple of times there, I felt I was swinging the bat well and then had a few games off, missed a game with the stomach virus, just little things here and there, and I think that’s kind of set me back a little bit.
“I understand what’s going on around here. We’ve got a lot of guys that they want to take a look at, a lot of guys who have an opportunity to be evaluated. I’m one of the only guys that’s going to be here for the foreseeable future. If I feel like I’m healthy enough to go out there and play that’s the least I can do.”
The $161 million contract, the largest in franchise history, has four years remaining and makes moving Davis virtually impossible. Is it a foregone conclusion that he stays for the rebuild?
“I have thought about that a little bit,” he said. “I honestly haven’t heard a whole lot. I think that’s kind of been the plan all along. We didn’t necessarily know we were rebuilding until a few months ago. I don’t think that was the plan coming into the season. I think there was a lot more hope that we would be a better team, and then they saw what was right in front of them and tried to do the best with what they had.
“I honestly don’t worry about that. I’ve been fortunate to play here for several years, to see a lot of faces come in and come out, to win, be on postseason teams. To be on a rebuild, it’s tough, especially as an older player. But I understand the commitment I’ve made to the team and the city of Baltimore and I’m going to honor that as long as I can.”
Is it too late for something to click and Davis to get back to being the feared slugger that brought such an extravagant commitment?
“This year?” he asked with a smile.
I was thinking more about 2019 and beyond.
“Yeah, honestly, this year for me has just been kind of one disaster after another,” he said. “There are several games I go back to earlier in the year. There’s one game specifically in Chicago where I lined out three different times to three different spots on the field. In Tampa a couple weeks ago, I hit three balls that were not even 15-20 feet off the left field foul line and the left fielder was standing right there. And it’s kind of been that way for me all season.
“You see the strikeouts are up and the weak contact, or whatever you want to call it, into the shift. But I mean, it’s just been one of those years. I continue to work, continue to do whatever I can to get a leg up on the competition. But as far as the rest of the season is concerned, I’m just trying to get to the finish line and hopefully we’ll re-evaluate it in the offseason.”
The roster is in the process of being torn down and the makeover figures to extend beyond the clubhouse. Players can’t ignore it. And they aren’t fighting it.
“I think change is definitely needed,” Davis said. “What specific changes, I don’t know right now. I’ve really tried to put that out of my though process. The last month, going into what seemed like was going to be a lot of unknown, I try not to think about whether Buck (Showalter) is going to be here, whether Dan (Duquette) is going to be here, who’s going to be here, who’s not going to be here. I’ve got enough on my plate just trying to finish the season without having to worry about all that.
“I definitely think change is needed. There’s no doubt about that. Losing 100-plus games, if you decide not to change, I think that’s foolish. We’ll see what the offseason brings and we’ll go from there.”
Update: Aaron Hicks and Luke Voit homered off David Hess in the second inning to give New York a 2-0 lead.
Update II: The Orioles trimmed the lead to 2-1 in the third after Breyvic Valera and Steve Wilkerson singled with no outs. Cedric Mullins reached on Gary Sanchez’s throwing error as Valera scored, but Wilkerson was out at the plate.
Update III: DJ Stewart tied the game in the fifth with an RBI single.